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1. S&P 500 TOUCHES RECORD HIGH
The S&P 500 stock index finally reached the historic closing high it set in 2007, after a morning of low-volume trading Thursday ahead of the long Easter weekend. It took the broad market index 66 months to claw its way back to its pre-recession closing peak of 1,565.15. The S&P's bluechip counterpart, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, returned to record territory on March 5, and has set higher marks several times since. The S&P has more than doubled since bottoming out at an intraday low of 666 in March 2009. Its next target: the intraday high of 1,576.09 set on Oct. 11, 2007. [CNBC]
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2. BANKS REOPEN IN CYPRUS
Cyprus' banks reopened Thursday under tight government supervision to prevent a run on deposits. Edgy but calm depositors lined up to get cash, although they'll only be allowed to withdraw about $380 a day. The Mediterranean nation's financial institutions have been closed for two weeks as Cypriot leaders negotiated a $13 billion bailout with Europe. The deal is the first in the eurozone that will force customers to help foot the bill for saving the banking system from collapse. Accounts of over $130,000 will be frozen, and a big chunk of those deposits will be siphoned off. [New York Times, CNBC]
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3. BLACKBERRY MAKES SURPRISE PROFIT
BlackBerry announced Thursday that it had made a $98 million profit last quarter, surprising Wall Street. The company, formerly known as Research in Motion, also reported that it had sold 1 million phones running on its BlackBerry 10 system, feeding optimists betting on a turnaround. Still, BlackBerry also reported a net loss of $646 million for the fiscal year. It also lost 3 million users worldwide, leaving it with 79 million subscribers. Those figures are "pretty alarming," tech analyst Bill Kreyer of Edward Jones says, as the company makes a big push to win back users it has lost to Apple's iPhone and Android-powered smartphones. [Associated Press]
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4. BANKRUPTCY JUDGE SIGNS OFF ON US AIRWAYS-AMERICAN AIRLINES MERGER
A federal bankruptcy judge on Wednesday approved a proposed $11 billion merger deal between US Airways and American Airlines. The judge, however, declined to authorize a $19.9 million severance package for Thomas Horton, who took over as CEO of American's parent company, AMR, in November 2011 after it filed for bankruptcy. The deal, which would create the world's largest airline, still must be approved by federal regulators. If it goes through, the merger will cap a flurry of consolidation leaving US Airways-American, United Continental, Delta Air Lines, and Southwest Airlines with 83 percent of the nation's airline passengers. [Bloomberg]
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5. JOBLESS CLAIMS RISE SLIGHTLY
The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits increased slightly last week, although the more reliable four-week average remained low enough to indicate a healthy hiring pace over the month of March, the Labor Department reported on Thursday. Other fresh economic data showed that the economy expanded more than initially estimated in the fourth quarter of 2012, reinforcing the view of analysts who say that the recovery is continuing but still vulnerable to tax hikes and spending cuts that took effect in early 2013. "The underlying growth trend is showing some encouraging signs," says economist Laura Rosner of BNP Paribas, "but the key risk is how much fiscal tightening we'll see this year." [Reuters]